MUNCIE — Thousands of Afghan evacuees are beginning to move to cities across the country, including cities in Indiana.
About a dozen evacuees picked to resettle in the City of Muncie. Volunteers through the Muncie Afghan Refugee Resettlement Committee are working together to welcome some of these families as their neighbors.
About a dozen evacuees moved to Muncie within the last month and two more families are expected to move there in the next few weeks.
“A member from the community came and got our bags and put everything in their car and brought us to Muncie,” Saddiq said.
WRTV is only using his first name and not showing his identity over safety concerns for him and his family.
“Everybody was waiting for us to come, and they warmly welcomed us," Saddiq said. "My wife and my children were thinking in a way how lovely this community is.”
Extreme gratitude is how Saddiq says he and his family feel after a several-month journey to get to their new home.
The family of nine fled Afghanistan in August as the U.S. left the country. Then, they spent time with thousands of other Afghan evacuees at an American military base in Europe before coming to Indiana to live at Camp Atterbury.
“We were very happy," Saddiq said. "I mean we were in a safe place, and we thought we were no more in danger here.”
Saddiq and his family spent two months at Camp Atterbury. He vividly remembers a moment with one of his children there.
It came after his youngest child found a welcome note with words of encouragement.
“This is a very interesting message and it’s specifically related to me," Saddiq recalled about his child talking about the letter. "I am confident when I go out of the camp, I will be in the same school and same class with this guy, so I want to save a chocolate and give it to him because he has written a very nice message. So that was amazing for everybody, and everybody loved it.”
Two weeks ago, the family moved to Muncie with the help of the Muncie Afghan Refugee Resettlement Committee — better known as MARRC.
“It's the first time in our life see this type of view, beautiful, sights and fields,” Saddiq said of Indiana.
The father of seven said community members consistently ask him how they can help ease the transition for his family.
“I think it's something -- you’re never thinking of that support that we could receive here. And everybody was waiting for us to come. And they warmly welcome us,” he said.
Saddiq told WRTV about a recent trip to the market in Muncie with is wife: “They [people at the market] asked us. Where are you from? Are you an Afghan refugee arriving here? I said, ‘Yes.’ And then the tear comes out of her eyes and [she] says that everybody was concerned about life of Afghan people and we are glad you're here and you're safe. Without requesting, she shared her phone number and told us that please do text me when you are free.” Saddiq said he texted her a few days later. The message she sent back, he said, meant the world. “On of the top of the message I saw she says that we were praying that you can reach out to us and she offered us like to have some desserts in tea in the weekend…It shows love of the community and it shows commitment of the community.”
Already, the family has found a place to live, the children are enrolled in school and Saddiq is working towards getting a job.
Saddiq said he feels "completely safe" in Muncie. "I feel like I’m in my own home.” He continued, “But comparatively different, because back in home, my family and my children were advised not to go out when they don't need to. And also we were advised not to go after, after like if it's like a little bit dark. Here we went several times out of the home and we're able to walk around. I feel very much safe here. And my family is also very happy to be in a very safe place now.”
WRTV replied, “It's a good feeling.” Saddiq said, “It is really good feeling. And we are very happy for support that we received from everybody not only in the community, but those who support us to bring us to the United States, and now we are having a safe house here and we are thinking of our great future.”
“The community give us a lot and so far. We didn’t have anything in return, so my children and we are waiting for the opportunity where we can support the community when they need it," Saddiq said. "Where we can be a good part of this community? Where we can help the people in need in this community?”
A little more than 7,000 evacuees have been welcomed at Camp Atterbury since the beginning of Operations Allies Welcome, Jennifer Pendleton, a public affairs officer at Camp Atterbury said. Since Sept. 2, about 2,000 evacuees have resettled from the camp across the United States and Canada.